The sun bears of southeast Asia are classed as a vulnerable species, but there are some good news stories. We caught up with PoD Volunteer to hear about how three of their resident sun bears, Ginger, Ben and Jessia, are getting on at the Wildlife Rescue Centre in Thailand…
Currently the PoD Wildlife Rescue project in Thailand is home to 28 rescued beers, both the Malayan sun bear and the Asiatic black bear. Almost all bears at the centre were previously kept as pets in private homes and temples, however, a few were also confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade as cubs. Caring for the bears is not easy – they are very destructive, eat a lot, need large enclosures to be without stress, and because of their past as pets (being fed the wrong food) their medical condition needs close attention. Some bears are diabetic or have bad teeth from eating sweets for many years before they arrived at the Wildlife Rescue Centre.
In September 2012, the centre received a call from a temple in Southern Thailand asking for help with some unruly bears. It’s very common in Thailand for people to donate wildlife to temples, even though they are far from ideal locations to keep wild animals, and in many cases medical care and sufficient nutritional food is not available. Thankfully, in this case the abbot had called the Wildlife Rescue Centre for assistance.
On inspection, the enclosures at the temple were not strong enough and two of the bears regularly escaped from the cage, destroying property in the local area. To reduce the threat to the community and improve the welfare of the bears, the abbot had decided that the best decision was to give them up.
All three rescued bears, named Ginger, Ben and Jessia by the team, moved straight to the large open enclosures at the Wildlife Rescue Centre. This is where the real work (and skill) comes in as the centre tackles the issue of getting the bears to embrace sharing an enclosure!
Jessia is a rather boisterous character and in the first few weeks Ginger was not particularly welcoming towards her over-enthusiastic approach. In the initial introduction – when the gates between the enclosures were opened – Jessia ran straight up to play with Ginger but it was a bit too much and Ginger decided to climb to the top of one of the bear towers, making it clear that Jessia was not allowed to follow her!
Over the weeks, the Wildlife Rescue Centre continued to introduce the bears in small sessions. As time progressed, Ginger became accustomed to the energy that Ben and Jessia both display. The centre continued to separate the bears at feeding time to ensure that competition didn’t emerge, but the centre is happy to report they are now living together very peacefully.
The more relaxed they are, the more their personalities shine through: Jessia and Ginger often play together, but Ben has always remained more distant. Jessia has taken a shine to a particular spot on a concrete tree while Ben very much enjoys searching for food that volunteers hide. Ginger has lost a good amount of weight and hopefully, with the large enclosure and her balanced diet (with less candy!) she will be healthier every day. The three bears all sit together while feeding and share the same climbing trees – it has definitely been a successful integration.
- You’ll be helping to look after over 300 rescued animals including bears, primates, birds, reptiles and other small mammals.
- Tasks including feeding the animals and cleaning their enclosures
- You could also be helping construct new enclosures and taking visitors on tours
- You’ll be working 6 days a week, 6.30am – 5pm but the atmosphere is relaxed and informal, just remember you’ll get more out of it the more effort you put in!
- The centre is based on temple grounds around 100m south of Bangkok – this peaceful location is by a lake which houses a few ‘gibbon islands’ used to rehabilitate rescued gibbons. It’s 25km from the beaches of Cha Am and Hua Hin.
For more information about the project, including dates and prices, visit www.podvolunteer.org/Animals/wildlife-rescue-thailand.html